Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Airline Delays & Cancellations

Most annoying, to the business traveler, is airline delays and cancellations. Although delays are not isolated to just the airline industry they are the most prevalent.

So how do we handle that? The simple answer is, “Not well.”

The airlines claim four official types of delays: weather, mechanical, crew being timed-out or anything else that does not fall into the other three. I will address the “weather” issue in this article.

Weather is the killer of hope that you will arrive at your destination on time, if at all. It is the root of the most dreaded cancellation and weather cancellations leave the airline no responsibility to you for anything, except maybe rebooking you for a later time, or day.

If the plane is delayed or canceled for a mechanical problem and you will be stranded at the airport for a considerable amount of time, usually you will get, if requested, a meal voucher. It will be for a dollar amount that is equal to fast food costs so don’t get your hopes up for a gourmet meal on the house. Hotel vouchers will be issued if you must stay overnight. Not so with weather issues. You are on your own.

You may ask, “What about ATC, or Air Traffic Control issued holds and delays?” Well, ATC delays are usually due to “weather conditions.” These can occur at airports other than the one you are trying to leave. If you’re in sunny Los Angeles a snow storm in Chicago or thunder storms in Houston will slow things down for the entire country even if you are not going to either of those destinations. And if you are, many times ATC will not allow your flight to leave the airport. The reason? So there will be no wasted fuel by requiring your aircraft to circle while other planes are landing at a slower rate in the bad-weather location.

Personally, I hate it when I am on my way home and ATC makes my pilot do figure eights or circles in the sky to kill time before landing, due to weather conditions. With thousands of planes in the sky at any given time I just want to go straight to the runway, land and not be one of those thousands of aircraft that air traffic controllers are trying to keep from colliding into each other in the sky.

Simple delays of an hour or two are usually tolerable, unless you have made the really stupid mistake of setting up the most important meeting of the year to begin an hour after you were to arrive. It doesn’t matter if the flight was to be six hours or thirty minutes late. If you are late, you look incompetent and blaming the airline is lame. It will only emphasize your own poor judgment and planning.

I always leave the day before my business is to start. It simply gives me a twenty-four hour buffer zone. If my flight happens to be cancelled completely, I then have the opportunity to postpone the meeting with a full day’s heads up to the customer or client.

So sit back, relax and . . . wait.

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